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Remote Control Chaos

Remote controls

The first TV remote control that I owned was connected by a wire to the television. You could not take it more than twenty feet away from the TV because that was the length of the wire, but it never got lost. Cordless infrared remote controls became popular in the late 1950s, and soon they were being used not only for televisions, but for audio systems and cable television boxes.

Unfortunately, every manufacturer set up their own coding system and a remote control could not be used for two different appliances. Remote controls proliferated because one was needed for the TV, another one for the cable box, and a third one for the DVD player. There are several "universal remote" controls which promise to manage all your devices, but the programming is so hard that the average person prefers to use multiple controls.

This week, I have had calls from two little old ladies. One of them accidentally pressed some button on one of her two remote controls and lost the picture on her TV completely. She tried and tried but could not get the picture back. The other lady subscribed to a cable channel to watch some programs in her native language. She ended up with one cable system for her American programs and another cable system for her foreign programs. Each cable system has its own remote control, but to switch between them or to turn the TV on or off it is necessary to use a third remote control. This is too complicated for her and now she cannot watch her programs because she cannot get past the barrier of complexity.

Technology was so simple half a century ago. Remote controls had wires and telephones were connected to the walls. Today, you have to keep your mind sharp to be able to change the channels on the TV.
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